Supervisors of Research Assistants may have multiple overlapping roles with respect to RAs which add complexity to the supervisory relationship. The supervisor may or may not be the graduate student’s research mentor or academic advisor. The activities required of the assistant also may or may not relate to their own graduate research for their master’s thesis or doctoral dissertation.
In all cases, it is the supervisor’s responsibility to clearly communicate the expectations of the position and the roles and responsibilities of the Research Assistant and of the supervisor.
Research Assistants and their supervisors should discuss any technical or safety training required prior to beginning the work or at other regular junctures during the appointments, the number of hours to be spent on-site versus remotely, and the approach to time off from Research Assistant responsibilities (e.g., how much time is allowed, how much notice is required).
It also can be useful to discuss the management style of the supervisor and the research group culture. Understanding whether to report to another graduate student, postdoc, staff member, or the supervisor directly, and whether there are requirements for weekly, monthly or semester meetings or reports, will help level the expectations for the student and the supervisor.
Research Assistants should ask about these matters when in doubt, but it is the supervisor’s responsibility to communicate expectations openly and clearly.